“Don’t worry,” he said. “He’s dead.”

It was almost Halloween, and we had only been in Maine since August.

She and I and her brother Bob, a Mainer carved from local wood, were going to look for costumes in Portland. She hadn’t been in Portland in maybe thirty years and wanted to see how the years had treated it.

So we had stopped at the end of a long line of cars and trucks waiting to pay a toll.

Directly in front of us, on the open gate of a truck, a young girl sat with her arm around the neck of a huge deer. I knew at once it was a deer because I had seen one in a movie. True story.

But here was a young girl about 10 or 12 with her arm around the corpse of Bambi’s mother. It just lay there, looking very dead, its eyes looking right at me, its tongue hanging out to one side. On a pile of canvas next to her I could see the butt of a very large gun. I don’t know what kind, but I saw one like it in a movie. I never truly got over that moment.

“Oh my god,” I shouted. “It’s Bambi’s mother.”

“No,” Bob said. “That’s a buck.”

“A buck?”

“A guy.”

“She killed Bambi’s father?”

“Probably her dad did, but I don’t know, it might have been her kill.”

“Her kill?”

“Sure.”

“Little girls kill deer here?”

“Absolutely.”

At that moment, seriously, at that very moment, it began to snow.

“Oh my God,” I gasped. “It’s snowing. It’s not even Halloween yet, and it’s snowing.” True story.

“You never seen snow?”

“Of course, but only in the movies. Have you ever seen ‘Call of the Wild’ with Clark Gable or ‘Ice Station Zebra’ with Rock Hudson?”

Enough of that. Today is not about Hollywood. Today is about Maine, about how I got here, how I left, how I came back, and how I finally stayed.

I decided to write this column about all of that after reading my dear friend and colleague George Smith’s May 29th column on being a real “Mainah” and thought I might add my own vision.

After 28 years in Hollywood, we arrived in Maine in late August 1984 with a schnauzer and an old English sheepdog named Gatsby.

My late brother-in-law Cyril M. Joly, Waterville’s mayor and a Republican state senator, had found us a cabin by a lovely scenic lake and stocked the tiny ancient refrigerator with lobster, hamburger, champagne, white wine and a collection of tiny airline bottles of scotch.

Cyril and I had, you can imagine, a scratchy relationship at first, tempered by his love for his little sister, but when it occurred to him that I wasn’t going to leave, he set about finding us a house. We live in that house to this day.

But have I become a Mainer like George and his lovely Maine wife Linda, who found a dress to wear to church in the “dump”? The same dump where as a boy he went to shoot rats? I have not been to the “dump,” now called the transfer station, but a nice dress? Could there be an old 1950s’ linen jacket there? I must check it out.

Bean suppers in a church basement. The basement in my neighborhood was where sixth grade Christmas pageants were held, but mostly it was for Father Keating and his political friends to hold late night winter poker games.

Our hot dogs weren’t red. If they were, we would have thrown them out. Beans and hot dogs on Saturday night? Sure, we did that. It’s an Irish Great Depression dinner.

Going into the woods in the fall and killing Bambi’s father, or even Bambi himself?

I don’t think so. We went to the movies as a group in those days, and when the news of Bambi’s mother’s death spread through Disney’s beautiful forest, even the toughest of us wept into our popcorn.

It’s safe to say that no Mainer would be safe in the woods were I there carrying a weapon. Besides, orange has fallen out of fashion now.

As to shoveling the blood of the winter’s kill from the driveway? I have seen blood on streets before, and it’s nothing I could embrace as a task.

Mainer? Probably not, probably never. There is too much pilgrim in my heart still. She is happy being back, of course. She was born here. That qualifies her. Maine, you see, despite its desperate leaps into the future, still has its feet in the comfortable past, and we’re not leaving again.

 

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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